As outlined at the beginning of the series, eligibility for the BBB Top 40 Toronto Blue Jays prospect list is based not just on the traditional retention of rookie eligibility, but also on an age cutoff/screen. 2022 must be no more than a player’s age-25 season, that is, a player must be 25 or under on June 30, 2022 (meaning born after June 30, 1996).
That’s not to say that players who were eliminated by the age cutoff don’t have value. Rather, it reflects the fact that with younger prospects, the overriding element is projecting future abilities, whereas by the time a player is 25 or 26 that’s not so much the case. Solid future major leaguers have appeared on past lists, including Tim Mayza, Ryan Tepera and Taylor Cole, as well as numerous others who have had made useful contributions.
Hence, a separate list of prospects who missed the age cutoff but who could factor in as major league contributors. Losing the 2020 season and the limited inflow of new players helped to replenish this pool of players compared to 2020, though here too various transactions have taken a toll in thinning things out, especially at the backend. Nonetheless, there’s some worthy names to highlight.
5. Jackson Rees, RHP, age 27/28 (DOB: 7/30/1994), grade: 35, 2020: other notables
Signed as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Hawaii in 2018, Rees was transitioned from starting to the bullpen. He responded with one of the more spectacular lines you’ll see in 2019: a 0.73 ERA in 61.2 innings with 88 strikeouts against just 15 walks across Lansing and Dunedin (although his 15 runs allowed were three times the earned total).
Unfortunately, after the 2020 layoff a few early season appearances in Buffalo didn’t go well, he hit the injured list, and required Tommy John surgery in June that’ll keep him out until at least late this season. Thus he’ll have barely pitched in three years, but the mid-90s fastball and swing-and=miss slider make for a pair that can still profile in a big league bullpen role and that lands him at the back of this list.
4. Logan Warmoth, utility, age 26 (DOB: 9/6/1995), grade: 35, 2020: just missed
The 22nd overall selection of the 2017 MLB Draft out of North Carolina, Warmoth trended towards one of the “safe” college picks whose lack of carrying tool stalled his progress. Jumping right to Dunedin in 2018, he never really hit and was passed by 4th round middle infielder Kevin Smith. By 2020, in a deep Jays system, as he mostly an afterthought and only his draft pedigree landed him on the just missed list.
After the layoff in 2020, he was assigned to Buffalo, the more significant change being he moved to the outfield rather than helming the middle infield. He still struck out too much, but did show some more pop, and is off to strong start in 2022 so maybe something’s been unlocked. It’s possible he could be some big league time as a utility or up-or-down guy, and he there’s still a vestige of first round pedigree that was not five years ago.
3. Nick Allgeyer, LHP, age 26 (DOB: 2/3/1996), grade: 35, 2020: other notables
Allgeyer was selected in the 12th round of the 2018 Draft from the University of Iowa, and skipped right over low-A in going directly to Dunedin the next year after a strong run at Vancouver. Despite the jump, he was really solid, and again made a jump in 2021 up to Buffalo after the layoff.
Allgeyer’s calling card is pitchability, with a fastball around 89-90 as a starter (he was 92-93 in shorter bursts when the Jays called him up to provide depth in the bullpen). He can mix in three offspeed pitches in a change-up, mid-80s slider and curve in the 70s. The lack of raw stuff caught up with him in AAA last year, and he profiles as up/down depth but has already made it to the majors which is noteworthy in itself. Because of that, he alternates between carving up lineups (first two starts of 2022) and getting blown up (this past weekend’s start).
2. Graham Spraker, RHP, age 27 (DOB: 3/19/1995), grade: 35, 2020: pref list
Spraker was drafted in the 31st round out of Quincy University, a very small D-II school in 2017, and first came across my radar watching him pitch for Lansing in 2018. Though he was only throwing around the high-80s/low-90s, he’d show a really sharp slider and had dominated out of the bullpen for Bluefield in his first stop of pro ball.
The Jays kept him largely stretched out in 2018-19, but he finally moved to a short role in the bullpen in 2021 in New Hampshire. The velocity ticked up to touching the mid-90s, though usually more 92-93, and he struck out 62 in 43.2 innings with a 2.74 ERA. The one thing to me was that his slider didn’t look as good/sharp as what I was recalling from 2018. He really put himself on the map with a good run in the AFL, where his slider did look better in the couple looks I saw.
His fastball lacks plus velocity, but has good carry allowing it to play up (though is very straight so command will be very important). If he can consistently have a sharp slider, he could carve out a role in a big league bullpen, otherwise he’s probably an up/down reliever.
* Kirby Snead, LHP, age 27 (DOB: 10/7/1994), grade: 35, 2020: other notables
Snead was selected in 10th round of the 2016 draft out of the University of Florida, the third straight year the Jays grabbed a Gator pitcher on Day 2 (Justin Shafer and Danny Young). he performed moving up the system level to level, and I was probably guilty of underrating him as an experienced low slot pitcher who was a tough look for most hitters but lacked stuff.
His fastball velocity did tick up over the past few years to be able to sit 92-93, a more feasible MLB velocity. he’s got the sweeping slider which is particularly hard on lefties, but also a decent playable change-up to keep righties off balance. The floor is an up/down reliever, if he can command that arsenal he could end up a solid middle inning arm.
* Josh Palacios, OF, age 26/27 (DOB: 7/30/1995), grade: 35+, 2020: 37th
There was a lot of talk about how much Palacios had impressed the Jays at the alternate site in 2020, and indeed he seemed to supplant Jonathan Davis as the leading outfield depth. He didn’t do much in a limited MLB opportunity early last year, then missed most of the year. But despite that, the Jays apparently preferred the likes of Raimel Tapia and Bradley Zimmer as outfield depth options, losing Palacios for nothing to Washington on a waiver claim.
Defensively, Palacios can cover any of the positions though is probably best in right field as opposed to a true CF. For a player in the upper minors, the offensive profile is wide/volatile. He’s plausible he could hit enough to profile as a second division regular, or not enough to stick on the back end of the bench. My hunch if more of the latter and he’s ultimately a role player.
1. Bowden Francis, RHP, age 26 (DOB: 4/22/1996), grade: 35+/40, 2020: Brewers system
A 7th round pick by Milwaukee in 2017, Francis came over with Trevor Richard for Rowdy Tellez and finished the season in Buffalo’s rotation. He’s been a solid minor league performer as he’s moved up, matching his stuff which is a solid four pitch mix with a low-90s fastball, two breaking balls, and change-up. The slider is his best rated pitch, but nothing stood out as plus to me watching some of his starts late last year.
If one likes him, he’s a backend starter who’s big league ready. Personally, I’m on the lighter end of that, more up/down depth type since I don’t really see a “carrying” pitch at the big league level, so I was a little surprised the Jays chose to add him to the 40-man and prioritize protecting him last winter.
* Zach Logue, LHP, age 26 (DOB: 4/23/1996), grade: 40+, 2020: pref list
Logue is the rare college draftee whose professional numbers are well ahead of his college performance. There’s nothing that really stands out in his arsenal, but his fastball velocity bumped up a couple ticks since signing to sitting low-90s, which is viable for a lefty with good command and a mix of offspeed pitches.
The best of those is a change-up that will plus with textbook fade to miss bats, though is sometimes more just average. He mixes in a slurvy breaking ball usually in the high-70s, but he can manipulate it a little firmer and down to the mid-70s. The big development in 2021 was adding a high-80s cutter that is really hard to tell from his fastball visually and helps keep batters off it.
The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, I’m on the bullish end but I like his odds of being a backend starter. Losing him for Matt Chapman is the cost of doing business, but like with Kendall Graveman in the Josh Donaldson deal, I wish the Jays could have substituted a similarly rates prospect (like say Francis).
Others of note: RHP Jeremy Beasley, RHP Mike Ellenbest, RHP Cre Finfrock (mid-90s fastball and good slider if he can stay healthy), RHP Cobi Johnson (looked really good in Vancouver bullpen in 2018), RHP Colton Laws, IF Cullen Large (shown some flashes of hitting), RHP Sean Rackoski, LHP Brody Rodning, RHP Thomas Ruwe, RHP Donnie Sellers
Players who will hit the age cutoff next year:
- Top 40: RHp Joey Murray, RHP Fitz Stadler, IF Vinny Capra
- Other: IF John Aiello, RHP Andrew Bash, RHP Parker Caracci, RHP Kyle Johnston, RHP Will McAffer, IF Nick Podkul, IF LJ Talley, RHP Troy Watson, RHP Sean Wymer